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Cortnee Brantley arrested in domestic dispute days before she planned to turn herself in

Cortnee Brantley, shown leaving the federal building in 2013, was to turn herself in on Monday to serve a sentence stemming from the killing of two police officers by her ex-boyfriend.
Cortnee Brantley, shown leaving the federal building in 2013, was to turn herself in on Monday to serve a sentence stemming from the killing of two police officers by her ex-boyfriend.
Published Jan. 3, 2016

TAMPA — Days before she planned to turn herself in for a federal charge related to a 2010 shooting that killed two Tampa police officers, Cortnee Brantley found herself in jail Saturday on a domestic violence charge.

According to Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies, she and Leandra E. Echevarria were driving about 5:30 a.m. when they started fighting. Echevarria, 25, said Saturday that Brantley, a friend she met about two years ago, wanted to go home with her from the New Year's party, but Echevarria said no. Brantley, 27, got angry and tried to grab the steering wheel from Echevarria, who pulled into a parking lot on U.S. 301 S.

Echevarria got out of the car, followed by Brantley, who punched her in the head and yanked off a necklace, deputies said. Echevarria ran to a nearby man, who called police. Brantley threw concrete blocks at Echevarria's Chrysler Crossfire, causing about $3,000 in damage, deputies said.

"I don't know why she reacted like that," Echevarria said. "I couldn't calm her down."

Echevarria said she and Brantley were roommates about three months ago, but Echevarria kicked her out because Brantley got agitated when she drank.

Deputies booked Brantley into the Hillsborough County Orient Road Jail on charges of criminal mischief and domestic violence battery with no bond. They described a personal relationship between the two, which Echevarria denied.

"Our office has been made aware of Ms. Brantley's arrest,'' said a statement from attorney Grady Irvin, who represents her in the federal case. ''Although, we are unaware of all the circumstances surrounding the arrest, to say we are 'disappointed' would be an understatement."

Irvin said Brantley's family members were gathered at her grandmother's house for a goodbye barbecue Saturday when he called to tell them of her arrest.

Saturday's arrest should not affect the status of her federal case, he said.

Brantley planned to turn herself in to authorities on Monday to serve a yearlong prison sentence for her conduct following the shooting deaths of two Tampa police officers by her ex-boyfriend, Dontae Morris. A jury found Brantley did not tell police that Morris was in possession of a gun as felon. Morris is on death row for killing the officers, Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis, and another man.

On the day of the shooting, Brantley was driving Morris in her car when, during a traffic stop over a missing tag, he shot Kocab and Curtis. Morris ran from the scene and Brantley, 22 at the time, drove away. Police were not satisfied with her cooperation after the shooting, and the pair exchanged text messages and talked on the phone following the murders, including about where to hide Brantley's car.

A jury convicted her in 2013 of misprision of a felony, an obscure federal crime.

Times staff writer Patty Ryan contributed to this report. Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or kvarn@tampabay.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.